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Wood chips vs Hugelkultur

 
bill archer
Posts: 58
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Hey everyone! So in my quest for more knowledge I recently came across a film that I really enjoyed. http://backtoedenfilm.com/#movie. I was shocked that it was free, and the wealth of info. Also the main person has lots of clay in his soil, something I could really relate to.
I am however a bit confused as to which direction I should go now as I am presently short on time (Summer ending in about 1 month) and resources (cost of wood chips/wood shavings vs free logs from nearby forest).
Do either of these methods provide more benefits/better results than the other (wood chip gardening vs hugelkultur)?
My 3 nearest lumbar yards within a 25miles radius only carry wood shavings or do not sell wood chips, and for shavings the cost is around $275 for a unit (covers 30x60 with 2" or something like), whereas the nearby forest has many uprooted trees that have fallen from I assume storms. They do not however appear to be rotting just yet, so whether or not these will do the hugelkultur job effectively is another question
Thank you.
 
Rick Larson
Posts: 210
Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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I think wood chips can be used as or with logs for a hugelkultur. I had cut down a dead spruce tree about ten years ago and had all the branches chipped up - needles and all - and dumped in the back yard. Besides using them for adding to compost, it had grown up various grasses along the edges. The chips under the sod and close to the surface are still apparent, but below it has made a nice loomy soil. I still have some left and I'll make a video of it the next dry day and post it.

I also have a little experience with logs, but didn't know there was a culture of people using the technique for growing crops. I bought 40 acres of mostly cedar swamp in 1997 and outlined various paths with dead white birch trees and branches to highlight the path. It was enlighting to find out a few years later the cedar trees sent roots up into the rotting wood. The trees had such a grip on the logs I couldn't move them!

The cedar trees are feeding!
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Posts: 8966
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I'm doing both....
 
Devon Olsen
Posts: 1066
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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i think in semi-arid to arid areas, mulch can be a bad thing compared to hugelkultur beds, the beds with bare soil allow water to penetrate the soil and then be trapped in organic matter
wood chips however have created some bone dry areas for me because the OM traps all the water before it gets to the soil, takes a good soaking to fix this, like more than a whole night with a sprinkler cus that didnt quite do it for me
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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In my opinion if you live within reasonable driving distance to a metropolitan area wood chips should be free and something that pro active communities want you to haul away. I drive about 30 miles to a suburan area that has a composting and recycling center and can haul about 3 yards of free and freely loaded wood chips each trip. I figure it costs me about a quarter tank of gas to haul it out to our rural area but the chips are free. In a couple of months a closer town will have a leaf pick up system for all the leaves that home owners in town discard and I hope to add another 6" of leaves to our garden. I realy think that both ideas have merit and that we need to adapt good ideas from several areas to fit with our individual environments. Personally when the leaves are falling, I plan to drive my old beater pick up to work and pick up 5-6 yards of leaves each day after work. Since I have to drive into town to work at least I can spend an extra hour to add lots of leaves to the garden and compost pile for a month or two. dang that is like a bonus that my employer does not have to shell out. wood chips in most suburban areas should be free and you are doing your part to keep them out of a landfill.
kent
 
LaLena MaeRee
Posts: 148
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Nearby forest you say? I would be standing out there observing, and then copying. Find out what your area uses when nature is in charge, and copy her Like Devon pointed out, each area ends up different, and sometimes what is awesome in one place is a disaster in another. Back to eden is a great film though, we rewatch it from time to time for inspiration. That and "Satoyama : Japan's secret water garden", the most genius way of living ever.
 
Nicole Castle
Posts: 151
Location: Madison, AL
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In this area, tree removal companies are required to haul away and dispose of all logs and wood chips (instead of leaving them for the county to pick up). They are delighted to "dispose" of them by dumping them in your yard whenever they take down a tree in your area. The hard part is getting them to *stop!*

If you decide you want wood chips, I'd call around to the local tree service companies.
 
kent smith
Posts: 211
Location: Pennsylvania
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Nicole is right, but a 12 pack of beer usually gets you a couple of truck loads of chips.
kent
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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i do both, separately and also together. . some 10"high raised beds have just logs and branches with manure,green grass,branches etc mixed in to 3' deep below grade. when i had chips i threw them in too.
nicole's right, i get all mine for free here,good on-giong relationship with 1 father/son company ,he also drops off good solid logs if i want em. even sharpen my chains now n then!great guys. i am working on slabbin a giant hickory log now he gave me weeks ago, it's a beast! musta saved them a few hundred in time,labor and dumping fees.i finally split it open today and it's beautiful.

the woodchips are a wonderful resource.mulch,hugel beds,fill. with most places you might have to take a full load which can be around 20 yards. i have taken this much in the past ,it's a lot of work to cart around the yard!to be sure! but well well worth the effort, the stuff i moved 3-4 years ago is excellent humus soil below now!!!i use it for potting mix all the time.

thes hugel beds are only in their 1st season but are doing amazingly well already. granted i did add copious amounts of homemade compost,worm-castings and other organic matter.

here are a few links
half-arsed vid of garden and my hybrid raised/sunken hugel beds, "etc"


album of hugelkultur beds in our garden

current month's bounty !

kent's advce shouldnt be taken lightly! a nice tip goes a long way! i share soem of our veggies with my guys when they pop through.
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Rick Larson
Posts: 210
Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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If you have a slow connection speed, click the gear-looking thingy at the bottom of the video box and click a lower resolution. That might help.

Here are old woodchips:

 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Posts: 8966
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Jo Sassy
Posts: 1
Location: North Carolina
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Last year, my brother and I built a 50'x28' back to eden garden. Purchased 2 dump trucks full of organic compost and our tomatoes and peppers were awesome. lol Then we learned about double digging, hugelkultur and keyhole gardening. So... this year, we decided to build 8'x4' beds while incorporating everything we've learned about gardening so far. Since we vermicompost, we had plenty of it (about 3 yards) plus all the compost from last year.
So we dug a few 8'x4'x2' deep and double diged the bottom. Then we filled with logs, branches, leaves, chicken manure, shredded paper, food (5 gal buckets full for each box) and added plenty of water ("hugelkultur"). We put a 5 gallon bucket (with holes at the bottom) in the middle of these boxes to be at 1" above the gardening boxes to add food as we would normally do for vermicompost ("keyhole"). We them mixed the better soil (top soil mixed with some clay) that we took out and began to add layers of this soil with compost and vermicompost until we reached the surface. We built these beds 12" above ground with big logs (about 6" in diameter) and then another level with old pallets we had. After we reached the top of the boxes, we got lucky with rain and allowed it to get water. Next day the soil gave in about 1 inch, which we then added it back in vermicompost.

We have been transplanting and soon will begin to add wood chips to the top, at least 4-6" high (back to eden gardening).

I can't wait to see how everything comes out. So far we have done 3 boxes like these but now even my mother (67y/o) wants to dig more boxes. lol The whole family got involved with the system while having a blast. The kids loved digging since they get dirty and don't need to worry about messing anything up.

Our chickens/roosters (and dogs) though we were building a new log house for them to play so we had to put a small fence around the box and then a net above it to keep them away.

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the 1st box
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dj niels
Posts: 181
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Jo, I am curious. You said your back to eden garden had great results, but then proceeded to change it to a deeply dug and wood filled Crater bed. Did the wood chip mulch not perform as you hoped, or is there another reason?

I ask because I am trying to determine if the mulch idea will work adequately. I have dug, by hand, with help from 2 strong sons, several 2-3' deep crater beds filled with wood and other organic materials like leaves, old hay, straw, etc, but it is a great amount of work. I am in process of starting a market garden, so my "beds" are 6 feet wide by 40 or 50 feet long. It took us most of last summer to dig out and refill one bed. So now I am contemplating doing the next area as a back to eden garden by just laying down the newspaper layer followed by some compost from a home built pile, with a covering layer of wood chips and leaves etc., that we can haul from the nearby town's "yard waste dump." We have already brought back several pickup loads and spread them around the newly planted shrubs we put in a couple of weeks ago, to help keep the new hedge row from drying out so fast in this dry climate.

So my question is, will this method of laying down a deep mulch work to build soil and retain moisture, in a high desert garden?
 
Olin Tlaloc
Posts: 11
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Hi Dj, I have had success with wood chips paired with horse manure in the high desert with rain gardens. 8 to 10 inches seems to be the magic number for depth/thickness of the beds. I try to wet things out as I build up the beds layering the manure with wood chips as I go. The addition of manure seems to speed the process as I have observed 2 month old beds with black humic compost forming just under the surface. Big rocks help too, the soil formation around them always seems to greater probably due to condensation.

Digging beds to this depth is no easy task but well worth it in a desert area, in the desert you really need to get down to a moist horizon to keep all the new soil flora frisky otherwise you will have to over irrigate with most likely alkaline water. You may want to invest some capital in a backhoe rental to get it done. I have a place here that rents them out for a half day fee around $115. If you are too far from the rental yard to drive the backhoe to the site or have limited accessibility a would suggest having a skidsteer delivered, usually the more expensive option.

For your hedge row I would berm them with medium sized rocks to keep the wood chips from spreading out and for condensation. I sometimes place rocks around the trunks to keep the chips back. In a raingarden format I ussually mound my plantings 4 inches so they only have around 4 inches of mulch around them and do not become inundated.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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It doesn't need to be a VS ..an either or. I use both quite extensively on my property and both do well.
 
dj niels
Posts: 181
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Thanks for your responses. I did go ahead with creating a new garden area, just by laying down newspaper, manure and wood chips. My son made a sifter with 1/2 inch hardware cloth, and has been sifting out some of the manure and woodchips, which I laid down in planting rows. I sowed a polyculture of chard, radishes, spinach and early crops, such as peas, and added some seedlings of broccoli and cabbage. It has only been a week since I planted, and the seeds are starting to sprout already, and the bed seems to hold moisture better than some of my other planting areas, so I am excited about trying this method.

I have also been spreading woodchips on the paths between my beds, and around my newly planted shrubs, to help hold in moisture. It does seem to be working, reducing the amount and frequency of watering I need to do. Since I have a 1/2 acre garden, more or less, it takes a lot of trips and time to collect and spread mulch over the whole garden. But little by little, we are getting there.
 
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